The Denver Nuggets are one of those unfortunate teams that's too talented to be in the lottery but not quite good enough to make the playoffs. Fortunately for Nuggets fans, the squad has the chance to correct all that in the 2014 draft.
Denver is armed with the draft's 11th overall pick and has the chance to land an excellent contributor at that spot. Providing they stay there, of course.
The Nuggets have been at the center of more than a few rumors leading up to the draft, and it'll be interesting to see if any of them pan out.
It's time to wade through all the gossip and find what speculation might have some truth to it.
Promising to Select Dario Saric
According to CBSSports.com's Ken Berger, there are strong indications that the Nuggets had at one point promised to snag Croatian forward Dario Saric with their first-round pick.
Obviously, news that Saric signed a three-year deal with Turkish club Anadolu Efes changes all that, but it looks as though Denver is seriously interested in the forward.
In general, lottery picks are expected to provide some sort of impact for the teams that draft them, but the Nuggets don't necessarily profile like a typical lottery team. They don't have an overwhelming need where a lottery pick could jump into the lineup. Therefore, they could decide to be patient and wait for a player such as Saric if they believe he could be special when he does arrive in the U.S.
As Dempsey pointed out, Denver has a fairly deep squad and is one of the few lottery teams that could stand to wait a few years for Saric to come over. Still, even prior to the recent news, it's hard to imagine that the Nuggets gave him any real promises.
Saric's blend of size, shooting and ball-handling makes him a unique prospect, and he's got the potential to be a terrific offensive player down the line. The Nuggets could use a bit more shot-creation, and Saric is a surprisingly strong off-the-dribble scorer for a 6'10” forward.
He's not a knockdown shooter right now (he hit 34.5 percent of his threes in the Adriatic League, per DraftExpress), but he's capable of spacing the floor and is a clever enough passer to generate good looks from the high post. It's not often you run into bigs capable of this:
The problem with Saric is that he doesn't quite sync up with the rest of Denver's roster.
The Nuggets' most pressing needs are a big guard to play alongside Ty Lawson and a rim-protecting big. Saric doesn't fit either mold. His skill set is also very similar to that of Danilo Gallinari, and unless Denver doesn't believe Gallinari will fully recover from his knee injury, Saric is a strange pick.
This is gearing up to be a wild draft, and considering both the possibility that a top prospect ends up falling into Denver's lap and Saric's less-than-ideal fit with the team, a promise just isn't realistic.
Trying to Deal for Kevin Love
ESPN's Chris Broussard recently reported that the Nuggets were attempting to pry Kevin Love away from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Sources: Nuggets offering Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler and 11th pick for Kevin Love and Kevin Martin— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) June 20, 2014
While it's unlikely the Nuggets pull off a deal for Love, it should come as no surprise that they're making some offers. Love is one of the 10 best players in the league, and those guys don't often become available.
Wilson Chandler is a solid rotation player, the Nuggets' pick has the chance to yield serious value, and Faried made big strides last season, particularly offensively.
Faried shot nearly 50 percent on post-ups last year, per Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required), one of the top marks in the league. He's still got a lot to work on—he doesn't draw many fouls and isn't a great passer from the post—but he could become an offensive force, especially if he improves his jumper.
Again, a deal isn't likely, and it's flat out not happening if Love isn't willing to re-sign in Denver (and as Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com mentioned, he's never said that he would). Still, don't be surprised if there's a bit more “Love to the Nuggets” buzz as draft day approaches.
Swapping Picks With Chicago
The Bulls own the 16th and 19th picks in this year’s draft, and are not eager to bring in two rookies next season as they try to quickly field a contender. Chicago would be willing to move one or both of the picks if they could yield an asset that will help with the team’s scoring woes.
The Nuggets are said to like Gary Harris and Nik Stauskas, per Sports Illustrated. Both may be gone by the 16th selection, but if the Bulls are really willing to part with both of their picks, Denver would have to think hard about making a deal.
There's a good chance that one of the top shooting guard prospects—Harris, Stauskas or Zach LaVine—drops to pick No. 16.
Grabbing Harris or Stauskas there would obviously be the dream scenario for Denver, but LaVine would be a solid pick as well. He's little more than an athletic project at this point, but he's got all the physical tools you want in a guard and could be a stopper down the road.
That would more or less leave the 19th pick open for the Nuggets to choose the best player available. Maybe Saric is still around at that point. Or perhaps Denver rolls the dice on Clint Capela, a shot-blocking big who deanondraft.com's Dean Demakis believes could be Tyson Chandler 2.0. Who knows?
Regardless of who they'd select at No. 19, the Nuggets would walk away with a lot of value. If Denver really is set on a knockdown shooter, then it'll probably stay the course with the 11th pick. But a potential Bulls offer is intriguing, and if a highly touted player starts sliding, the Nuggets may pull the trigger on it.
Dealing for Arron Afflalo
Afflalo enjoyed a breakout 2013-14 season, scoring 18 points per game on 57 percent true shooting, including 43 percent from deep. Even though he's no longer a very good defender (he's actually quite bad, according to most advanced metrics), he'd fit nicely in Denver. Still, there's simply no reason for the Nuggets to be interested.
Afflalo may be productive, but he'll be 29 years old next season and can opt out of his contract after the year, per ShamSports. It wouldn't be at all surprising to see him chase a long-term deal elsewhere, and even if he stays, he's no real answer for Denver.
The Nuggets won't be true contenders for the next few years, so there's no reason to give up a lottery pick for a short-term fix. Orlando is smart to put out feelers, but there's no way Denver will bite.
All stats accurate as of 6/24/2014 and courtesy of NBA.com unless specifically stated otherwise.